Monday, 12 January 2015

Stokers Siding: A little railway art

On a recent drive through Northern New South Wales, I turned off the Tweed Valley Way at Murwillumbah and traced the former North Coast Line through the scenic hills to a place called Stokers Siding. The road, although winding, was easy to drive and the scenery from the car window was truly pretty, but there was not much of the old Murwillumbah branch line to be seen. Until we came to a place known as Stokers Siding.

The single stretch of rail line at Stokers Siding in 2014 is still well presented 10 years after the line closed.

Now Stokers Siding is a tiny village of only 655 people located only 8 km from Murwillumbah along Mistral and Stokers Roads. Although the Murwillumbah Line closed in May 2004, trains haven't stopped at this tiny little hamlet since the days that bananas were loaded onto trains destined for the markets in Sydney. But the picturesque stretch of railway track nestled against a backdrop of green hills still pays homage to its railway past in the form of an impressive piece of railway inspired artwork. A later check of my May 1972 NSW Railways Timetable, shows that even as far back as the Seventies, trains only stopped at Stoker's (as it was known), when required. Two daily each way passenger trains served the Murwillumbah Line, connecting with the North Coast Mail at South Grafton on Sundays to Fridays in addition to the connection with The Brisbane Limited at Casino on Mondays to Saturdays. By the time the Murwillumbah branch of the North Coast Line closed in May 2004, a single daily XPT train to and from Sydney was the only train using the line, there was no longer a railway siding at Stokers Siding and the train simply hummed past Stoker's under the cover of darkness with no intention of stopping.

Looking south along the track to where the line curves just before the Smiths Creek Road crossing. The site of the former Stokers Siding Railway Station is just to the left of picture. 2014

Having done the trip south from Murwillumbah to Sydney many times throughout the 1990's, this was the first time I had seen Stokers Siding during the daylight. There's not much to the little town, but the Stokers-Dunbible Memorial Hall and the Stokers Siding Garage Volkswagen repair shop are still serving the town's needs. As for the original 1894 railway building? It was long ago moved back from the railway line and converted into the town's general store and post office with an attached verandah tea room. It can be found on the corner of Smiths Creek Road. As time was getting away from me however, discovering a little railway art on our drive through the Tweed Valley would have to remain enough for now. Afternoon tea at Stokers Siding Railway Station is always an adventure waiting for another day.

See also: Mooball: tired cows, no trains! and Murwillumbah: Going bananas over Trains

No comments: